There is some pain which we can just “grin and bear it,” and then there is the unrelenting type of pain. Those that have experienced chronic jaw pain can relate to the latter. One of the most frequently used joints in the body, the jaw or temporomandibular joint (TMJ), is a common source of pain [1]. Dysfunction of the TMJ can be lifestyle limiting, often causing its victims to pop ibuprofen like candy. The TMJ is one of the most intricate joints in the body. A bilateral, modified-hinge joint composed of an intra-articular disc and multiple muscles, the jaw moves like no other joint in the body. Given the anatomical complexity and diverse function of the TMJ, it is no surprise that greater than 15% of Americans suffer from chronic facial pain which include jaw pain and headaches [1]. Unfortunately, many people do not realize there are conservative treatments that can eliminate jaw pain.

Muscles of the temporomandibular joint.

Figure 1. Muscles of the temporomandibular joint.

Jaw pain can be referred to as temporomandibular disorder (TMD). Symptoms of TMD may include: tenderness of jaw muscles, headaches, earaches, clicking or popping of the jaw, and pain with chewing or yawning. Often times, TMD can cause such severe pain that it may alter the way a person eats or talks. The root cause of such pain can come from a variety of factors, but poor head and neck posture, chronic jaw clenching, or disc displacement are among the primary contributing factors [1].

Anyway you look at it, living with jaw pain is a miserable experience. The good news is there are effective and proven methods to eliminate TMD. Physical therapy is one such proven method. A systematic review of recent research demonstrated that manual (hands-on) therapy effectively treats TMD by restoring the joint range of motion as well as decreasing pressure pain threshold [2]. Additionally, therapeutic exercise has demonstrated positive and lasting outcomes for TMD as it addresses the underlying cause of the problem [3,4]. Some physical therapists have received specialized training in techniques proven to restore proper joint mechanics and relieve tissue restrictions. If your jaw ‘clicks’, ‘pops’ or if you suffer from an aching jaw or nagging headaches, the specialized therapists at NEPT may be your solution to living without jaw pain.

Lateral pterygoid muscle with associated trigger points demonstrating referred pain

Figure 2 . Lateral pterygoid muscle with associated trigger points demonstrating referred pain

How Northern Edge Physical Therapy Addresses TMD

Northern Edge Physical Therapy is committed to helping clients achieve natural healing and pain relief. Treatment will begin on your first visit. After a thorough evaluation of neck posture, TMJ joint motion, and soft tissue restrictions, your therapist will develop a treatment protocol unique to your condition. Clients will have the option to elect specialized treatment techniques proven to relieve pain. Functional dry needling has been shown to decrease pain associated with trigger points in the muscles of the jaw and upper neck. If opening or closing restrictions are identified, manual techniques can be implemented to restore motion of the joint. One such manual technique involves cervical joint manipulation. Manipulation of the neck effectively treats motion restrictions of the neck, allowing for more freedom of movement. Finally, clients will also be instructed on postural exercises they should complete in order to maintain lasting changes.

You do not have to live with jaw pain. Come see us at Northern Edge Physical Therapy where our board certified physical therapist can lead you back to living pain-free.

Research

1. Gauer RL, Semidev MJ. Diagnosis and treatment of temporomandibular disorders. Am Fam Physician. 2015;91:378-386. Article Summary.

2. Calixtre LB, Moreira RF, Franchini GH, et al. Manual therapy for the management of pain and limited range of motion in subjects with signs and symptoms of temporomandibular disorder: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. J Oral Rehabil. 2015;42:847-861. Article Summary.

3. Michelotti A, de Wijer A, Steenks M, Farella M. Home exercise regimes for the management of non-specific temporomandibular disorders. J Oral Rehabil. 2005;32:779–785. Article Summary .

4. Nicolakis P, Burak EC, Kollmitzer J, et al. An investigation of the effectiveness of exercise and manual therapy in treating symptoms of TMJ osteoarthritis. Cranio. 2001;19:26–32. Article Summary .

Share this article...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on LinkedInEmail this to someonePrint this page
Physical Therapist at Northern Edge Physical Therapy
PT, DPT
Born and raised in the Mat-Su Valley, Jimmy Sliwa is excited for the opportunity to establish his career in the community he grew up in. Jimmy attended the University of Great Falls in Montana, where he graduated with honors with a bachelor’s degree in Biology and then continued his education and graduated with his Doctorate of Physical Therapy from Eastern Washington University in 2016.